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Bagha

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“No! No, Appa, please, no!” Echoed the voice of the young Aditya through the village square followed by the thunderous sound of his father’s cane, abruptly ending all of the young boy’s screams of agony.

“Eve tease, will you? You dirty dog!” Yelled his father, as his cane continued to find Aditya’s body, as he rolled screaming in pain in the sandy village square. “You scoundrel! This is what we taught you, is it?” 

It was almost as if the flow of time itself had ceased for the rest of the village. The children stopped their game of hide and seek. Shopkeepers and merchants, stepped out of the stores. Even the street dogs halted mid walk as they witnessed the wrath of a father on his son.

Krishnamurthy, the father of the now accused Aditya finally stops after a flurry of strikes on the young boy as his cane gives in. Snapping in two as he accidentally hits the ground in rage. Furious and embarrassed, Krishnamurthy hides his face as he storms away from the boy, beaten black and blue, left bleeding on the square in broad daylight for the entire village to gossip about. He wasn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, nor the strongest. Friendship was a concept he was alien to, alongside the ideas of social constructs set for a boy of 17 in 1982. True to his similar behaviors in the past, he had tried to pull a prank on a classmate of his the previous day. Tossing an empty sack over her head and pretending to abduct her, partially disrobing her, only to reveal minutes later that she was pranked.

This was the girl that had infatuated the teenage Aditya, in front of him, scared out of her mind, crossing her arms across her chest and clutching on to the torn of piece of fabric with terror in her eyes. Gasping for air, as she crawled out of the dirty sack she yelled out for help. 

As her screams faded into the sunset, Aditya realized what this looked like. His eyes widened in horror. In a moment of confusion, he runs, abandoning the lady in her state of distress, but it was too late. Words spread faster in Pavagada’s Bazaar than the pace of a police investigation looking for missing young girls, and soon the word of Aditya’s heinous act flew to his father. Reliving the horror of the moment of realization dawning upon him the previous day, Aditya laid in the village square, bloodied as the villagers watched.

He lay and lay, but no one wanted to help the scoundrel that had dare try to prey on a young lady. He listened as his classmates whispered among themselves, passing judgement upon his character, as girls flocked together on their way home from school even as the approached his bloodied body. He lay there. He waited. He did not want to look these people in the eye. In his mind, he was the victim.

One hour.

Two hours.

Three hours. 

Time seemed to slow down as he waited and waited. Watching the Sun rise and descend in front of him. 

“Why won’t they leave?” He asked himself. “Why won’t they go away. The Sun has set. Why won’t they let me get up.”

The horror of the previous day flooded upon him again, as he witnessed the arrival of the moon. Along with something that he hadn’t heard all day long. Footsteps, in his proximity. Somebody was approaching him. 

“Is it the police?” He asked himself. “Or is it the Sarpanch? Can I just beg for forgiveness from Chandra? Show her that I’m sorry?”

The footsteps came closer almost echoing to him through the ground as the finally seized to move, and an unfamiliar face slid into his vision. 

Dressed in a jet black dhoti, the man blended with the night. The only thing that kept his silhouette discernible from the dead of the night was his bald head, shining in the full moon. A rudraksh hung by a chain hanging off of his neck long enough to find the front of his protruding belly. A smile plastered on his face. Not a sinister one, not of someone who has come to laugh on him like the boys in his school. A smile that was amiable, one that Aditya had almost forgotten the look of.

“Get up, beta.” Said he. “I know you have the strength left for it.”

Aditya followed. Looking into the strangely amiable eyes of the mysterious man, leaving little puddles of blood on the ground as he got up. All he did was stare only for the man to break the silence as he placed his palm on Aditya’s cheek.

“It is getting late, should I walk you home, beta?” He asked.

“No, I don’t want to go home.” Said he finally breaking his gaze as he gently shook his head.

“Hmm,” sighed the man. “Do you want to join me for a meal then?”

Aditya looked up. Confused. Noticing the little cloth bag that the man had in his other hand, that he could swear wasn’t there moments ago.

“I suppose,” said he, hesitant. 

The man smiled as he took his hand off of Aditya’s cheek reaching into his bag, handing him a container of steel that Aditya sweared smelled more delicious than the Gobi his mother made.

“Come here,” He signalled as he sat down under a nearby tree cross legged opening a separate container with rotis. 

Aditya follows, feeling tempted to just open up the box of steel and gobble up whatever is inside, but refusing to suspend his disbelief of this mysterious man that he’d never seen in the village.

Noticing the doubts Aditya had the man says with a smile. “You can trust me, beta. I mean no harm,” as he reaches out for the container in Aditya’s hand, opening it to reveal the most delicious looking sabzi in the world, as he tears off a small piece of the roti, before placing it in his mouth with a little portion of the sabzi. 

He smiles at Aditya as he chews, holding out both the containers to him as he gulps his first bite.

Aditya almost pounces on the containers starting to gobble them up so fast, he almost chokes multiple times.

“You must have been really hungry, right?” He asked. “You’ve been here all day.” 

Aditya nods, continuing to gobble up the delicacies in front of him.

Soon enough, he finishes it all before realizing that he had probably eaten off of the man’s portion too. 

“Sir,” He calls.

“What is it, beta?”

Aditya coyly holds both containers to him. There was not even a stain left. 

“Thank you, for the meal, sir.” He says, nervous.

“You can call me Shiv,” said he, still holding on to that warm smile. “Now, do you want to go home?”

Aditya looked down. He did not want to, but then again, it wasn’t exactly a choice. 

“You don’t, do you?”

Aditya shook his head.

“Well then, I shouldn’t force you,” He said before snapping his fingers as he ordered Aditya to close his eyes.

There was silence for a moment before the sounds of the crowded village square flooded his ears. Shocked, he opened his eyes. Shiv had disappeared, and so had that dark night. It was a new day, a cold winterey day of late November. He looked around, but to no avail. Shiv had departed, in a manner quite contrary to his arrival.

Lucky for Aditya it was a weekend, which meant he could avoid the school he dreaded so much, a lot more today than ever before.

His wounds weren’t bleeding anymore, but still very much there for the world to gawk at. He began walking, occasionally flinching due to the million injuries in his legs. Before long, he stood in front of his home, a place that unlike the school had no escape, where he had to return no matter how much he dreaded it. His father, was on the front porch.

“Appa,” he called, only to be met with silence, not even a side eye.

His mother had passes quite a while ago. In his mind, she was the only person who cared, the only person who could understand, but alas that possibility existed no more. He dragged himself to his room, tears running down his eyes. 

He wiped off his tears as he entered his room, only to find a mysterious, out of place letter on his dirty mattress, that lay on the floor. The radiating white of the envelope, in stark contrast with his dirty room. Confused, he picked it up. Tearing open the envelope to find a piece of paper that read,

“Come find me in the village outskirts to the north if you need to talk, beta. I don’t like roaming in there in the daylight.”

His face lit up and he read further. 

It was signed.

“Shiv.”

Smiling, he ran off. For a moment there, he almost forgot the state his leg was in, as a jolt of pain restored the pace his body was comfortable in. 

His father didn’t even budge as Aditya runs as fast as he could with the potential of his wrecked body, charging towards the north, as the rural scenery changes to that of the woods.

He halts as he sees the dense forest cover, the light not reaching all the way to the ground.

“Shiv!” He called out, as a familiar figure emerged from behind the trees. A silhouette identical to the amiable middle aged man he had seen the other day, with only one difference. His smile had changed from amiable to ominous. From warm to sinister.

And that was it. That was the last event he recalled before finds himself in the dark depths of a cave. Surrounding him are the bones and skulls of infants. His arms soaked in blood, not his own for a change as he notices the corpse of Saudamini, the 5 year old sister of Chandra. His bloody arms holding on to a piece of paper with illustrations that the local priest had warned him of. The illustrations of those demons and asuras blood stained from his own arms as he takes one glance at his arm realizing that it seemed to be of anything but a human. Hairy with massive claws, holding on to a rudraksh. 

His mind briefly taken away from his world falling apart from sounds of gunshots as he hears familiar voices of the villagers, “There he is, there is the lakadbagha (hyena) as he runs deeper into the cave system. The footsteps and whispers fade away as the night falls upon Pavagada. The calls of the villagers still echoing in his mind. 

“Lakadbagha… lakadbagha… bagha… bagha… bagha…”

The sounds haunt him as he dashes out of the caves, noticing the vile bloody drag marks, presumably from him dragging the little girl to her death, as he runs off into the night, dawning the identity of the words that echoes in his minds, becoming an urban legend, the legend of Bagha.

The sources of the childrens’ deaths remain a mystery to this day, with the police dismissing this activity, branding them as acts of man eating wolves despite never finding evidence to support this hypothesis. No drag marks. No puncture wounds only neat cuts on their necks, presumably from a sharp blade. No wolves or hyenas seen entering or exiting the village. Nothing. And Bagha lives on inspiring terror in the hearts of the villagers. 

FOOTNOTES:
(From Author’s perspective)

So for those who probably did not have enough time to think it over, no, the remarks about the drag marks are not continuity errors. They are deliberate including many others that maybe telling you that Aditya’s perspective is flawed and could be delusional. Maybe he committed all of the heinous crimes. Maybe Shiv never existed. Maybe Shiv was an alternate personality of his. Maybe he was hallucinating about those hairy claws and had become a deranged, delusional serial killer. Guess, we’ll never know.

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